I may not be a blogging expert, nor a photographic expert, but I think one of the first things we all realize when we start blogging is that photos matter. This is particularly true of food blogging. Until someone develops the technology that allows me to give you all taste samples through your computer screens, I have to find other ways to show you how tasty these recipes are. I could tell you, with words, that my recipes are tasty, but that's always felt kind of disingenuous to me. I mean, how many recipes have you seen that are called "The best insert food here?" And it's easy to say that something is mind-blowingly delicious. It only took me a few seconds to type that. But how do you know it really is as tasty as I say it is? On the flip side, I could, in fact, have the tastiest dish in the whole wide world. But would you believe me if the only picture I had of it made it look like a pile of mush? In the online world, we eat with our eyes, and it's because of this that photography is such a key part of blogging. Maybe photography is your strong suit, in which case my hat is off to you! But if you're here reading this, you're probably more like me and have struggled with the photography aspect of blogging.
I'm going to hate myself for re-posting these, but my photos were horrible, truly horrible when I first started blogging. I mean, just look at these! It's like the same bad photo over and over again but with different food. Yes, these are still on my blog, and no, I'm not showing you where.
I know, you're all probably feeling infinitely better now about your own photographs (you're welcome). I'd like to think my food photography has improved (vastly) since those first pictures, and if I can do it, then you definitely can too! So how do you make your photographs look just as tasty as the food you're photographing? Here are my top 10 ways to improve your food photography!
#1. Know Your Camera
You don't need a super fancy, expensive camera to take nice pictures, but you do need to know how to use your camera to the best of its abilities. If you're shooting in auto, you're probably not taking advantage of all your camera has to offer. I currently shoot with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i and I would thoroughly recommend it if you're looking for a good, entry level professional camera. It's not as expensive as some of it's more advanced siblings, but it allows you to mess with all of the important features you'll want to tweak like aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. If you're not looking to invest in a camera right now, that's ok! Just make sure you know how to use the one you own.
#2. Have a Variety of Backdrops
A quick, and easy way to improve your photos is to use a variety of backdrops (although not necessarily all in the same post). I like to choose one or two backdrops that I use consistently throughout a post. That being said, whatever I've used in one post, you're not likely to see in the next (that helps add variety among your posts). I also try to match my backdrop styles and colors to my foods, keeping in mind what kind of atmosphere the combination will create (sweet and playful, elegant, bright and colorful, etc.). Although all of my backdrops have a fairly simple, understated style to them, it's these little details that will enhance your photos by a mile! Luckily, there are so many things you can use for backdrops, so get creative! Some of my favorite cheap options are wrapping paper and craft paper (downside: you can't clean it and will eventually wind up tossing it). If you're looking to invest in some professional (and long-lasting) backdrops, I recommend Ink and Elm. I have 6 of their backdrops and I love them all!
#3. And a Variety of Props
Just like having a variety of backdrops helps keep your photos interesting, so does having multiple props. Again, it helps to pick a few props and be consistent within each post. But it's also a good idea to vary what you use across your posts (as in, don't use the same prop in every post). There are SO many props out there, and truly, the skies the limit! A few of my favorites include colorful dishes, sprinkles, cups, cake stands, doilies, napkins, kitchen utensils, twine/string, food (particularly berries)... pretty much anything you kind find lying around your home or garden!
#4. Vary Your Camera Angles
(And know that not all angles will work for all foods)
You've probably already gotten the point that a big part of good photography is variation; it's just boring if every photo looks the same! This is also true for how you shoot your photos. Try shooting from different angles to get different views of your food. That being said, not all angles will work for all set ups. If you're shooting a bowl of something, it may be that the only angle that works is a straight down shot. Cupcakes, for example, are pretty from the top, but you miss so much if you don't get them straight on. Just like people, foods have "good" angles, so try to consider that as you're taking your pictures.
#5. Use Good Lighting
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is SO essential to good photography. Best case scenario, you're working with natural daylight. My typical photography place is somewhere next to a window, preferably a south facing window so I won't have direct light but will still get a good amount of light throughout the day. If you're not working with natural daylight, you'll want to be sure to have a good, artificial light source, and you'll want to change your white balance setting on your camera. I'll admit, I haven't quite figured out artificial light photography, so I'll instead refer you to Pinch of Yum for their article on artificial light photography.
#6. Try Using Diffused Lighting
No matter what kind of light you're shooting in, you'll probably want some level of diffusion (depending on the intensity of the light). The purpose of diffusing in photography is to create a softer light source so that you don't get a glare, or have very intense lighting on one side of your food and a dark shadow on the other. There are lots of professional photography options out there for light diffusion, but you can also make your own by using tissue paper, or a white sheet or some sort of fabric between your light source and your subject. Here are a couple of options for building your own light diffuser: 10 Minute Light Diffuser and DIY Light Diffuser on the Cheap.
#7. Get Rid of Dark Shadows
We already talked about this a little bit in the previous section to the extent that you don't want a harsh light source because it will create a harsh shadow. That being said, even diffusing your light source won't completely get rid of the dark shadow problem. In order to do that, you're going to need something to reflect some of that light back. Again, there are lots of professional options out there, but I tend to prefer the homemade (cheaper) versions. Because, really, who wouldn't like to save a little cash? If you want to go with a homemade option, you can really use just about anything that's reflective. At home, I use an Ikea box lid that has a shiny finish to it. While at my parents, I've used a folded piece of tin foil and had just as much success with that.
#8. Learn to Edit Your Photos
So you've gotten through taking your pictures. Yay! Hopefully these tips have helped you take some really beautiful pictures that will put you on the right track to some beautiful, finished photos. That being said, you'll still probably need to do some editing. Best case scenario, you're photos turn out gorgeous and don't need any editing, but still need to be compressed so they don't take up so much space on your blog. But even beautiful photos tend to need just a little tweaking. For more information on compressing your photos, editing your photos, and (free) photo editing software, check out my post on editing your food photos.
#9. Draw Inspiration from Others
Don't be afraid to check out what other people are doing! If I'm really stuck on how to shoot a particular kind of food, I'll go to places like foodgawker and tastespotting, and search for that type of food for photo inspiration. There's no shame in getting help from others!
#10. Be Patient and Keep Practicing!
But whatever you do, keep it up and keep practicing! It takes time to get better at, well, anything you're trying to get better at so give yourself time and be forgiving with yourself.
So what are your best photography tips? Your photography dos and don'ts? Share them with us in the comments below!